So what is that strange mini-Eiffel Tower? You’ll be surprised!

This particular post has been a long time coming.

For about a year and half I have been reading and studying California’s “Water Wars” and a natural outgrowth from that research directed me to want to know more about other natural resources.

Los Angeles County sits on huge oil reserves. Just how huge? I’m only now beginning to understand.

Recently I shared with you about the La Brea Tar Pits and while I was doing some reading, I came upon a few curious stories that really caught my attention.

In 1925, not long after the La Brea Tar Pits were recognized as a source of fossil fuel, California supplied half of the world’s oil and much of it came from Southern California. Currently Los Angeles County has about 30,000 active oil wells.

The Tar Pits are on the southern edge of the Salt Lake Oil Field, and with a careful eye, as you navigate the busy city you can easily spy evidence of active oil production.  Oil rigs, or in some cases just a maze of pipes and low to the ground valves, share space with the Beverly Center Shopping Complex, the historic original Farmer’s Market and even CBS Studios.

But it’s the oil field adjacent the Salt Lake Oil Field I find most intriguing.

I presume that everyone has at least some impression of Beverly Hills? Let’s first take a very quick drive by Rodeo Drive.

Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, is best recognized for its 90210 zip code. Of course it IS home to many celebrity addresses, but only a fraction of the city’s population lives in the “hills,” with the remainder in the “flats”–which  includes four more zip codes.

At another time I’d love to share more from Beverly Hills which has a very interesting history; today I want to talk about what’s flowing beneath the famous streets.

 Meet the Veneco  Flower Tower

Veneco Flower Tower

This is an oil derrick…or at least it houses the mechanics responsible for a substantial amount of oil drilling.

Beyond its unusual design and fabric wrapped covering its claim to fame is the location on the grounds of Beverly Hills High School.

Photo taken from Beverly Hills High School Track and Athletic Field

Photo taken from Beverly Hills High School Track and Athletic Field

Thirty to forty wells pump about 150,000 barrels of oil a year from the Beverly Hills Oil Field.

And not without its controversy!

OIl Tower at Beverly Hills High School

In 2006 the court dismissed 12 lawsuits brought by Erin Brockovich on behalf of former Beverly Hills High School students, claiming there were unusually high levels of benzene and other toxic substances related to oil production, contributing to a suspiciously large Cancer cluster among Beverly Hills High alumni.

The city and school district had previously spent more than a million dollars to determine the area as safe, but for a time there was a great deal of worry and concern for the students.

Brokovich was later accused of participating in what may have been a rush to judgment in a grab for publicity, however, controversies still linger.

As a matter of general concern, not simply related to the high school, the city of Beverly Hills voted to ban all oil drilling after 2016.

Will they? Should they?

It’s such an interesting conundrum.

Oil drilling is a continual revenue stream.

This 150 foot tower represents between $300,000 and $700,000 annually in royalties to the school, covering 85% of teacher salaries.

Beverly Hills left an option open in their decision  to “revisit later.”

I’ll let you know what they decide.

For more pictures of the oil fields of the Los Angeles Basin, including other well-disguised buildings, click HERE. I highly recommend looking at Westside & Downtown and Harbor & Long Beach.

Love it or hate it, it drives (pun intended) our economy and we are in a tremendously interesting crossroads as California begins switching over to more environmentally friendly fuel sources.

As the debate rolls on, my head just spins faster!

Stay tuned…I can’t get enough of this stuff!

42 thoughts on “So what is that strange mini-Eiffel Tower? You’ll be surprised!

  1. Debra, MTM and I were just talking with someone tonight about the dangers of these types of operations in urban areas and how they could be turned into terrorist targets. It’s definitely something to think about.

    • I am entirely too aware that the west coast has been spared thus far. So interesting that you and MTM had been talking about the vulnerability of this kind of target. Jay works for the railroad and he is even more aware of the potential dangers out there and we were talking about that tonight! I think after Boston we’re mindful once again. ox

  2. Two thoughts. I so enjoy your authentic reflections and articles about LA/California. I am learning so much. I had a giggle when i saw your photos of the cliche LA because that is how I think of your home. Interestingly, I live in a province where oil/gas is the main industry/income generating industry. You pose a very interesting and complex issue. Sorry I don’t have a solution. ~Thea

  3. When I lived in the East Coast my friends and I thought that California was so hip, and wondered about Beverly Hills. I am still amazed that California is an oil giant. Learned something new tonight, didn’t know there were fabric covered building structures. I would enjoy reading a post from you about Beverly Hills. :)

    • The parks in Beverly Hills have art that is so interesting. I intend to go walking around soon with my camera in hand. I would enjoy it myself. And then I will be sharing. I think it is a really interesting city, even with some of it’s over the top glitz! :-) Thank you, Marie.

    • Thanks for your interest in Beverly Hills high school and a fabric draped oil rig, Christine! I could really go on and on…there are stories within stories. I am grateful I haven’t run everyone off! hahaha!

      • Christine, I don’t think many Angelenos are particularly aware of the oil drilling in the city. Most of the sites are very well disguised. One of my favorite “disguises” is a beautiful glass and mirrored high rise. Had I not seen it on a website, I’d never have believed it! ox

    • Most of the oil drilling in Southern California is very well disguised, Jim. I don’t think most even know what they’re looking at, and that’s fascinating to me. Only in America is right! LOL! The oil leases aren’t just funding the school, they are also providing quite a bit of income to some of the city residents. And in reality, it doesn’t make much sense to stop pumping in one city when the adjacent cities are still heavily invested in production. I’m very good at asking questions, but it’s a good thing no one is waiting around me for me to provide answers! :-)

  4. I didn’t know anything about this. I can imagine Erin Brokovich would have been like David coming up against Goliath. With so much money at stake, she could not have been allowed to succeed. xx

    • I’m reading two interesting books on the Beverly Hills high school controversies related to the lawsuits, Charlie. And both books somewhat contradict each other very convincingly! It’s a fascinating topic, and at this point, I do have lots of questions!

  5. Fascinating, Debra. I would never have guessed that tower was an oil derrick, nor would I surmise it to be on the grounds of a high school, let alone Beverly Hills High School. I suspect the controversy will continue, and, in the end, those cancers and their cause will be confirmed, but, oh what a ride it will be. That is a great deal of money going into the school district and I would think other perks come with it. Living in the Chicago area, where we have our own supply of, er, “topics”, I’m jaded enough to say nothing surprises me when it comes to money. We visited friends some time ago when they lived in Oklahoma City, which had at that time a working oil rig – in front of the state capitol!

    A fabulous post, Debra. You continue to educate and enlighten me on California history. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • I really appreciated your comment, Penny, because one thing I think we both share is being predominantly optimistic people, but you also said you are somewhat jaded when you think of some of the more local to you political hot potatoes. I do straddle some kind of strange line between cynicism and being a consistently optimistic person. I’m not at all sure how that works out, but on balance, I have hope that we’ll eventually figure out what it takes to conserve this poor ailing planet. I’m not sure I am of sound mind to be too strongly opinionated, but I’m enjoying the reading I’m doing and as long as I keep asking questions, I feel a little empowered. Very little, but….LOL!

      • It is a fine line to straddle, isn’t it? I do tend to be more optimistic and have great faith in the next generation, who will clean up our mess, as they likely create their own. I think we can maybe be called cautiously optimistic. There is always the struggle between advancement and the environment. Like you, I can see both sides of the issue. Keep asking those questions, my friend. Empowerment often comes in the smaller things, a step at a time. Loved this post.

    • Thank you for sharing an interest with me in California oil production. Truthfully, California is one of the four top states in production and that still affects the entire country. My dilemma at the moment is that I am completely absorbed in reading about both the history of petroleum in California and solar and wind fields that are currently creating some unintended environmental consequences. I really do need to lecture somewhere. LOL! And not on a blog! :-) I do appreciate your consideration, Frank.

  6. Hi Debra, I must comment once again . . . in an era here in Northern California where schools’ revenue is cut year after year, it’s amazing to hear Beverly Hills High School has that much money regardless of what the state of California has. It’s too hard to know the risks to students so you can’t say one way or another but from a financial standpoint I would say “thank you” for the generosity of what the oil provides!!! 85% of teacher’s salaries is amazing! Thanks for the history lesson.
    Love and thanks always for housing Joel!!! Kathy

    • You probably are aware of all the controversies regarding more oil drilling in the Monterey Oil Fields, Kathy, and the number of jobs that would create. I am in so much conflict over all the potentials versus risks. I have been reading from so many sources, and it’s almost impossible to really follow the facts, because everything written is so emotionally charged. I’m currently reading two books about the Beverly Hills oil field and the lawsuits…and they come from different perspectives. I know what you’re talking about with all the educational budget cuts–can you imagine having that much money handed to your district? And it would be Beverly Hills, right? LOL! You know we love seeing Eric so frequently! :-)

    • I have so many different, and frequently conflicting thoughts about oil production right in the middle of so much urban action, Nancy. But the truth is that it’s been so for more than 100 years and at this point sometimes I think the hand-wringing is disingenuous. There are many, many inconsistencies in policy making. It doesn’t serve me well to have kind of a strategic mind. When things don’t add up I sometimes don’t know what to do with the balance. LOL! So for now, my big goal is to enjoy the reading and studying, and at least I’m enjoying the journey. I have tons of opinions…unfortunately, they are all over the map! :-) And yes, I think we are definitely being painted into a corner. I completely believe that!

  7. Not just surprised, Debra. My English mind is boggling at the thought of oil extraction in the middle of a major city! I also have to reveal my total ignorance of the fact that Southern California is such a major oil producer. Most people over here will have heard of the Texan oil-fields, but to us Los Angeles means Hollywood. ;-) Keep broadening my horizons, dear Debra…..

  8. There used to be a lot of those when I was a kid in L A. Baldwin Hills was a mini Saudi Arabia. Also a good place to go and drink beer :)

  9. I remember that case back in 2006, Debra, and the controversy. It’s yet another case of so much mud being slung that no one can tell which side is the good one. The truth is there, somewhere in the middle presumably, but good luck uncovering it. No matter the controversy in today’s environment, both sides spew so many, often baseless, arguments that it’s a wonder anything gets accomplished here. Oh, well. I’m off to check out your new pages.

    • I’m reading two books on the subject of the Beverly Hills high school oil case, John, and I’m just utterly fascinated. Anyone with the slightest evidence of strong critical thinking skills knows the frustration of reading and discerning “truth” in anything resembling a political hot potato. I’ve taken the approach that my best defense against total confusion is just to read without too much analysis. Since I’m not in a power position, hahaha, I can read and just take in the story. I included the videos, John, mostly hoping some of my family would take the time to learn more about the Long Beach oil fields. My daughter and family live in that area and some of the oil platforms are functioning as rather lovely islands out in the ocean. We see them, but don’t know much about them. One of the narrators on the video states that today they would never be able to put them there. Times are really changing and I find it very interesting to watch. Thank you for sharing in some of my observations, John.

      I will from time to time include a few videos on the page I directed you to. Time is in short supply for all of us, and everything won’t be of interest, but it also helps me reference my favorites. I don’t like to clutter up a blogpost with too much–but for the few that have that time, maybe. :-) I hope you have a good weekend, John.

  10. Dear Debra, never, ever, did I know any of this! Please do keep us posted about that 2016 resolution. I not going to view the videos today because I need to shower, dress, and drive to the restaurant where I’m treating my brother and his wife to a birthday lunch. He’s the dearest 74-year-old I know. Peace.

    • I hope you had a wonderful time with your brother and his wife, Dee! How lovely to have some family time and I’m sure they, too, were looking forward to your visit. Are you able to see your brother often? I hope so. You are so dear to consistently show interest in my California stories. I’ll be following the story of oil production very closely because I’m becoming even more interested as we begin to incorporate new energy sources and alternative methods. I have to read a lot to understand just a little. LOL! But I try. I hope you have a good and hopefully restful weekend, Dee. ox

  11. I love the idea of disguising oil derricks. The most we do hear is paint a cowboy riding a bucking bronk on some of the pumps. Coming from Alberta, I have no problem with oil wells. I believe the safety regulations would be even more strict in an urban environment. Thanks for sharing this interesting California trivia that I’ve never seen in the guide books.

    • I have a lot of interest in understanding even more about oil production, and I’m concerned about the effects of fossil fuels on the environment, of course, but in terms of outright safety, I’m not too worried. Perhaps it’s just that they’ve always “been here” in my own backyard. I am following tons of debate, however, and there are so many different perspectives. I’ll probably never have a settled opinion, but I love learning along the way! Have a great weekend, Terri.

    • I don’t think most Southern Californians really know about the oil drill “disguises” either, CCU. Some of these building have been around for a very long time and somehow we just don’t see them anymore. It’s quite interesting to me, so it’s fun to share a few of our odd sights with you. :-) Hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  12. Shocking and yet not surprised by the masquerades across Tinsel Town. What an interesting post and I look forward to more investigations by breathelighter since it’s not in the mainstream news.

  13. Reblogged this on breathelighter and commented:

    Today the City of Beverly Hills continues its year-long Centennial Celebration. If I were the roaming special interest reporter I often pretend to be, I’d be on site with camera-in-hand. I’m afraid that’s not possible today, but I thought many of you may not have seen this little piece I posted last year. It’s the oil in Beverly Hills that I find much more interesting than the proliferation of jewelry stores. Happy Sunday, my friends.

  14. I am smiling at the idea of a fabric draped oil rig, Close to my daughter’s home is a pylon for cell phone signals. It is covered with greenery to make it look natural, but I have never seen a tree of that shape!

    An oil and gas drilling firm has won planning permission to drill an exploratory well in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, which it says could hold around 450m barrels of oil. This is a first for us, so far all our oil came from the Scottish offshore oilfield.

    • I’ve seen the “funny trees,” too, Marie. They’re so odd, but at the same time, I do appreciate the effort to disguise a tower! LOL! Oil production is a tricky business. I think when it goes “well” we are all quite happy to be heavy consumers, and then when there’s an environmental disaster we get very high and mighty. I do know it’s complicated, but I love the fabric draped Eiffel Tower…it is so Los Angeles! I live in the land of smoke and mirrors! :-)

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